When asked what someone’s favorite animal is, most people would say: “A cheetah, because it’s fast,” or “A bird because it can fly,” but most people don’t usually say a shrimp. When in reality shrimp are definitely the coolest animals. More specifically, the mantis shrimp. This little shrimp lives in warm, shallow water and typically grows to be about 6-12 inches of pure death.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
One amazing feature of the mantis shrimp are its eyes. Now, humans are known for their good eyesight, because our eyes contain millions of light sensitive cells called rods and cones. Rods are used to see light and motion, while cones enable us to see color. Humans have three types of color receptive cones: Green, Blue and Red. These three cones allow us to see all of the countless variations of color we see. However, the mantis shrimp has 16 color receptive cones. This means the mantis shrimp is capable of seeing countless different colors that we will never be able to see. Along the subject of color, the mantis shrimp are also probably the most colorful shrimp on this planet. They appear in a variety of colors, from shades of brown to vibrant neon colors.
These little beasts are also the most ferocious and violent killers on Earth. They contain two raptorial appendages at the front of their body. They use these appendages as spears and clubs to smash and stab their prey. These spears can accelerate at 102,000 m/s2, the same velocity of a .22 caliber bullet. In less than three-one-thousandths of a second they can strike their prey with 1500 Newtons of force. Their little spears move so quickly that it literally boils the water around them in a process called supercavitation. When these cavitation bubbles collapse, they produce a shockwave that can kill prey even if the mantis shrimp misses their target. The force of these collapsing cavitation bubbles also produces temperatures in the range of several thousand Kelvins and emits tiny bursts of light, in a process called sonoluminscence. They use their tiny claws of destruction to dismember their prey smashing them to pieces and stabbing them. To be able to withstand so much smashing one must think that their limbs must be quite strong. Well, their limbs are so strong, that researchers have been studying the cell structure of these limbs in order to advance body armor for troops in combat. You cannot find these little death machines in many aquariums, because they tend to live most of their lives tucked away in burrows and holes. Also, because they have a tendency to slaughter every other living creature placed in the same tank as them. And also because the little suckers are capable of breaking through aquarium glass with a single strike.
Now, after learning all of this you might be like me and think that the mantis shrimp is the coolest animal that has ever lived on this planet. Or, you will be utterly terrified by this brightly colored death machine.